FAA considering making Surf Air flight path over Bay official | News | Palo Alto Online |


FAA considering making Surf Air flight path over Bay official

Residents living near Sunnyvale have organized to fight the route

The Federal Aviation Administration is considering making the route Surf Air has used to avoid homes on the Midpeninsula – by flying over the Bay – an official fair-weather route. But an organized group of residents from Sunnyvale has turned out in force against the route saying it transfers the noise to their neighborhood.

On Wednesday, the FAA held what it called an informational meeting in San Jose as part of its consideration of whether to make what it calls the Bayside Visual Approach an official charted flight path.

That would mean the route could only be used when pilots can actually see the airport, but could be flown using instruments, which many pilots consider safer to do even in visual conditions.

The meeting was held in the Santa Clara County Government Center in San Jose starting at 6 p.m., and many of those attending complained about the location as being far and difficult to reach from the areas affected by Surf Air flights.

Nonetheless, about 100 people showed up, the vast majority of them wearing bright orange T-shirts signifying they were part of the Save Our Sunny Skies group. That group, made up of mostly Sunnyvale and Cupertino residents, is protesting the route because it brings more planes into the already congested airspace over their homes.

Officials had designed the meeting to include about 40 minutes of presentations from Surf Air, the FAA and the San Carlos Airport – which is owned and operated by San Mateo County – and then move out into the lobby, where people could ask questions of the officials.

But dozens from the Save Our Sunny Skies group, including a leader with a megaphone, refused to go along and said they wouldn't leave until the officials were regrouped in the auditorium to answer questions from and to the group.

Officials agreed to return to the auditorium, but only after most of the meeting attendees who were not part of the Save Our Sunny Skies group had left.

The route was developed by Surf Air in cooperation with the FAA after Midpeninsula residents complained about the noisy Pilatus PC-12 turboprop planes the commuter airline uses.

The FAA allowed Surf Air to use the Bayside Visual Approach for a six-month experimental period that ended in January. The route takes planes over the Bay – starting in Santa Clara County near Moffett Field – as they descend toward the San Carlos Airport.

The FAA has evaluated the results of the trial, during which conditions allowed Surf Air pilots to use the route about 67 percent of the time, and is now doing an environmental review.

Thann McLeod, a manager of airspace and procedures, planning and requirements for the FAA, told the group that her "primary responsibility in the FAA is safety."

"If something is not going to work, it's not going to work for a reason, not because I'm favoring one community over another," she said. She may have been anticipating that if the FAA decides not to make the approach official, Midpeninsula residents will be angry; if it does approve it, the Sunnyvale and Cupertino residents will be angry.

Because the air space in the Bay Area is so congested, the FAA had little choice in choosing the route, she said. "We run out of room very, very quickly," she said. "This was the best we could do."

"We did put a lot of thought into this procedure when we designed it," she said.

Surf Air and Encompass, the company that has taken over the operations part of the SurfAir business, say that they have been working to find another air route to the San Carlos Airport and have experimented with a route that comes in from the east over the Bay and avoids more residential areas.

"We need a global solution," said Charlie Caviris, the Encompass chief pilot. The route from the east "is a way that we can greatly reduce noise for communities," he said.

The FAA says comments will be taken on the Bayside approach until Oct. 27. Comments can be emailed to: 9-awp-sql-cvfp@faa.gov or mailed to: Noise Concerns, AJV-W25, FAA, 1601 Lind Ave. SW, Renton, WA 98057. Comments may also be made on the FAA website, which also includes a number of presentations from the meeting.

After the six-month trial ended, Surf Air pilots continued to use the route while the FAA studied the results. Existing regulations allow pilots to fly non-charted routes under visual flight conditions, but they, not air traffic controllers, are responsible for maintaining separation from other aircraft and obstacles.

Surf Air started using the San Carlos Airport in June 2013, and by July of this year had 228 flights a week arriving at or departing from San Carlos. Its customers pay a monthly fee for unlimited flights.


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7 people like this
Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 29, 2017 at 4:35 pm

Come on people. We live in an urban area, with access to train stations and airports. There will be noise. Let's all acknowledge that.

6 people like this
Posted by Atherton and TRACON sitting on a tree
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2017 at 7:09 pm

Atherton and TRACON sitting on a tree is a registered user.

"The route was developed by Surf Air in cooperation with the FAA after Midpeninsula residents complained about the noisy Pilatus PC-12 turboprop planes the commuter airline uses."

Funny that when it's time to blame the unwanted route on someone, Atherton is MIA. It's because "Midpeninsula residents" complained.

"Thann McLeod, a manager of airspace and procedures, planning and requirements for the FAA, told the group that her "primary responsibility in the FAA is safety."........

"We did put a lot of thought into this procedure when we designed it," she said."

TRACON did put a lot of thought to designing a route for Atherton, while ignoring the real big problems in the "Midpeninsula"

5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 29, 2017 at 8:24 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Flying the visual approach requires the pilot to maintain visual separation from other aircraft and provides less safety than flying the ATC monitored IFR approach.

12 people like this
Posted by Tired of Cronyism
a resident of another community
on Sep 30, 2017 at 3:01 pm

An act of Congress brought this hell over our heads nationwide. An act of Congress has to put an end to it. But it's captive to aviation. Endless meetings, committees, roundtables and so on are a war of attrition. And this is a prime example of another tactic in the attrition strategy: pit communities/neighborhoods against each other. Divide and conquer. The FAA NextGen program officially unleashed in 2012 with implementation slated into 2025 is all about aviation expansion at all costs to human health and the environment. The key to ending the nationwide misery is to raise the altitude to the noise abatement procedures that were upended by the act of Congress on behalf of this industry so it can pack the skies (commercial, cargo, GA, military). Can we be for human health and the environment and at the same time not even question the idea of on-demand flights and air shipments. Aircraft are the most polluting means of transport.

Until people value their health and the environment over a sense of entitlement to fly and ship by air on demand, this fight goes nowhere. Profits are being projected, investors need to know the capacity/profit goals are coming, and this is why the federal government isn't reversing this low-altitude hell; once they know what people are going to put up with, how low they can go and get away with it, they can build and investors can bank on returns and the masses can have their on-demand travel and shipments even if they can't even get a decent night's sleep. The new American Dream life!

26 people like this
Posted by Jetman
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2017 at 5:19 pm

The San Mateo County Supervisors just increased the landing fees for Surfair at San Carlos Airport so San Mateo County can profit from Surfair, while dumping the noise on Santa Clara County. Problem solved!

Wake up folks. San Mateo County is in the Airline business. San Mateo County owns and operates two airports and San Mateo County hosts San Francisco owned and operated SFO.

State run enterprises operate just like any other business. Businesses love to privatize profits and socialize costs. State run enterprises are even worse because their directors can pass laws.

"Landing fees approved for San Carlos and Half Moon Bay airports"
The Almanac ~ Aug 9, 2017 Web Link

3 people like this
Posted by ATR, ret.
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 30, 2017 at 6:46 pm

If Surfair would hire competent pilots who could manage a steeper descent and therefore keep their buzzbombs at higher, less noisy, altitudes over most of their very long, nugget-simple shallow straight in final approach, most of the problem would go away.

2 people like this
Posted by also rated
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2017 at 9:32 pm

If you were really an ATR you would know that the descent profiles are up to the FAA and ATC. Since you don't know that, you're lying about being an ATR and just throwing out unfounded disparaging insults.

5 people like this
Posted by ATR, ret.
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 1, 2017 at 5:37 pm

"If you were really an ATR you would know that the descent profiles are up to the FAA and ATC."

Keep your nose down. Every left seater knows that. Tell me why such a cushy final if not for Surfair lobbying to accommodate its pilots skills limitations.

Like this comment
Posted by Tired of Cronyism
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2017 at 3:25 pm

Gee, I wonder if people are getting angry.

Anyone losing it with the insane aircraft noise and considering doing something stupid should keep in mind that a low-flying aircraft might just belong to law enforcement trying to tempt you in your feelings of helplessness against this federal aviation expansion program to do something reckless. Their working with MIT to make sure anyone tempted to be reckless in their rage can be located and prosecuted:

Quote from article in Phys.org "Developing sensors to defend aircraft against lasers" 9/29/2017 (Link: Web Link):

"The only offensive measure of preventing laser strikes involves baiting perpetrators with police helicopters. In an area where laser strikes are frequent or anticipated, a police helicopter flies at a low altitude to deliberately attract laser strikes. When the helicopter is targeted, its pilots—who are equipped with night vision cameras—locate the perpetrators and alert ground law enforcement. However, this practice is not widely adopted, it requires significant time and effort, and the equipment involved can cost as much as $250,000.
'It's not ideal,' says Richard Westhoff from the Laser Technology and Applications Group at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory. 'You really have to put people in harm's way to do that.'"

Like the NextGen program itself and its horrendous impact, not seeing any major media coverage of the rise in laser attacks on low-flying aircraft.

2 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 2, 2017 at 11:13 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.


These turboprop pilots can just feather the props until power is needed at flare out just above the runway. Yeah, that means YOU, PIC! The only time you need be noisy is at takeoff, when you need maximum thrust, when the prop is noisiest.
The Mountain View house is in the approach path of the original P-3 ASW aircraft and they were nowhere near as noisy as the Pilatus PC-12 is when running at maximum thrust levels.

On the comments from Cronyism: We actually did this as teenagers when the cops started playing voyeur with the new " Midnight Sun " high intensity spotlight. It got pretty annoying to get woken up at 2 am when that beam hit your house. We all had surplus Spectra-Physics lasers ( the HP copiers used them )and we teamed up from several areas and when the cops started playing with their spotlight, we hit them with our lasers. The canopy glowed a pretty red when we all hit it..

It took just one more repeat and then the voyeurism stopped: For OFFICIAL USE ONLY after that.

On other areas of civil disobedience, I would think that DRONES would become more of a problem; just set one to hover at a certain GPS setting. Or on the Internet enabled, fly by wire aircraft, it would be a simple matter to disrupt avionics by a third party....

The statute of limitations applies on our version and we DID get compliance from the cops and their new " toy "...

40 people like this
Posted by sue lin
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 4, 2017 at 3:47 pm

We live in PALO ALTO! We have so many important people living here and things going on. There is so much money here. It should be very easy for us to have the flights moved over another city or the bay. Our representatives must stop ignoring us on this. Where are they?!

5 people like this
Posted by Atherton and TRACON sitting on a tree
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2017 at 9:23 am

Atherton and TRACON sitting on a tree is a registered user.

su lin,

If noise is removed from whoever has the most money and politicians, then do *not* expect any help for Palo Alto.

There is more power to the North. Probably to the South too.

Talk about political....TRACON "puts a lot of thought" for complaints from ATHERTON, Sunnyvale is against the route, and suddenly the controversial Bay route is because of complaints from the "Midpeninsula."

Expect the "Midpeninsula"to be blamed and used by both sides.

Sounds to me like you have an interest in making Palo Alto sound ridiculous, suggesting dumping noise on others - just the image the powers that be need to keep dumping on the "Midpeninsula."

2 people like this
Posted by Raul
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 8, 2017 at 11:41 pm

Does anybody else still hear these planes? I thought the city told them to move the flight path.

Like this comment
Posted by YIMBY Rising
a resident of University South
on Oct 9, 2017 at 12:42 am

It always amazes me how much some people, perhaps two or three total, complain about airplane noise. I have lived in Palo Alto since the last Ice Age, and there has never been much in the way of noisy aircraft. Nobody seems to mention it at all outside of this forum, indicating it is not an important issue for the vast majority of Palo Altans. If the complainers really cared about peace and quiet, they would go on an anti-leaf blower jihad instead.

4 people like this
Posted by soundproofing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2017 at 1:01 am

Raul and YIMBY

Odd you're both complaining in the middle of the night

To just wonder if anybody "still hear these planes"

"lived in Palo Alto since the last Ice Age"? ??

I wonder if you work for Surf Air?

4 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 9, 2017 at 12:06 pm

It is time to have a law suit against the San Carlos Airport. Their reason for being was to handle small planes for private use. It is time for Surf Air to redirect their traffic to the SFO and SJX private plane sections of the airport. And it is time that Surf Air move some of it's flights to the Hayward Airport. We keep talking about this and it goes no where. The Santa Monica Airport has been successful in shutting down it's facility which accommodates private jets due to noise. If successful in SOCAL affluent area then we should be able to also accomplish this. Why do we keep talking about this and not move it to the next step which has proven successful in other parts of CA.

2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 9, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"It is time to have a law suit against the San Carlos Airport."

A laws suit must specify which laws have been broken.

Can you please cite the specific laws that you believe have been broken and by whom.

1 person likes this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 10, 2017 at 10:15 am

The City Of Santa Monica successfully is shutting down the Santa Monica Airport because the city has grown in multitudes in that location. History - the Santa Monica Airport is on the site of McDonnell Douglas - one of the previous biggest employers in the area which then moved to Huntington Beach and was eventually bought by Boeing. So the SM location and site was already in place for a large jet airfield with accompanying facilities. Fast forward and the private jet world for rich and famous in Beverly Hills and elsewhere was able to convert this space for their use which was profitable for the city in general. This is a time of low population now growing to a large population in a location of the state with equivalent value as the peninsula cities. Fast forward the peninsula is now growing in leaps and bounds with new hotels and living spaces and industry in the immediate vicinity. We are not a flat space inhabited by a manageable population - we are now into a high growth location in the direct path of the San Carlos airport as well as SFO and SJX.
What ever legal position the SM lawyers took proved successful. So that invites the legally aware to explore that position and apply to this problem. The San Carlos Airport upon inspection does not have the facilities or space for growth and is jeopardy of bay encroachment. It has value for the small, private plane owners who take day trips to Half Moon Bay and elsewhere. One hopes that has enough value to San Carlos and San Mateo County to retain that site for that use. However escalating the profit picture to include non-stop commercial jet travel is a whole different can of worms regarding the liability concerning that effort. San Carlos has not stepped up to the plate regarding that nor is it in a position to do so. It is push comes to shove time and capable lawyers should b e able to make the case that the airport function within it's size and location.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter F Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 10, 2017 at 10:37 am

Under the agreement, Santa Monica must maintain stable and continuous operations at the airport until it is closed Dec. 31, 2028.

1 person likes this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 10, 2017 at 11:09 am

Yes - but the type of planes is reduced and the conversion to parkland for public use is increased. The whole property will undergo change for use by the public. Back to SFO - it is underdoing a change in personnel due to retirement and responsibilities regarding the use of the property. So who is in charge - the FAA or SFO? Large liability issues regarding the number and use of runways, control of planes while on the ground heading to / leaving gates, number of air controllers on duty during high usage periods, etc. There are a number of problems regarding who is in charge and who assumes the liability for major problems. So some evaluation needs to made regarding San Carlos as to what liability expense is involved and who assumes that liability expense. How much liability is the county assuming and how much is the FAA assuming. As these properties move from country to middle size to continuous big city the liability changes. Surf Air - what liability is it assuming?
The bigger they get the more liability they assume as does San Carlos.

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 10, 2017 at 12:43 pm

Surf Air - middle of the day was flying over the Kaiser Hospital / KMART Parking Lot in a descending pattern with much noise. How comfortable is anyone with inexperienced pilots flying near hospitals? How comfortable are you all with planes taking off and landing with RWC Oracle across the highway? SU is going to build a new campus next to 101 which Surf Air uses as a guideline. It makes me sad that there is no regard for the increase in population and attendant buildings - no accommodation for the fact that we are being pushed to increase people and buildings yet the FAA and cities who stand to gain keep pushing the window as to liability which is undefined at this point in time. All of these factors need to be spelled out before there is any increase in growth and activity. Are there traffic controllers at San Carlos? They work for the FAA - not San Carlos. Who is in charge here?

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 12, 2017 at 4:01 pm

In the paper today Aeromexico is adding flights from SJX to key Mexican Cities. So we are now upping the ante on how many flights are in process at any one time on the peninsula. San Jose is taking the position that it will continue to grow SJX with number of customer airlines and number of flights.
Questions to those in the know:
1. What is the FAA's jurisdiction in these increase in flights which now increase the coordination with SJX, SFX, PAO and San Carlos?
2. As the number of planes in the air at any time increase how is the FAA coordinating the number of air controllers at SJX, SFO, and we know at PAO?
3. Is there one oversite committee for the FAA in this location that is working to man-up all of the required people at the various locations of arrival and departure including the Oakland planes that are going west to Hawaii and cross the peninsula?

Bottom line is that the airline industry is growing by leaps and bounds over our head and it is unclear who is controlling the action - or are the airports randomly creating their industry base irrespective of the other airport locations. Surf Air has to navigate through this air freeway so what are the rules of the road? Surf Air is navigating through the SJX maize and the SFO maize. And they do not have the most experienced pilots - they have people trying to build their resume of hours so that they can "graduate" to the big boy airlines. And we have novice air controllers who are learning the ropes - saw them at the PAO on Airport Day.
We are a training ground for all of this activity - what a joy.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 12, 2017 at 4:06 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) uses runway slots to limit scheduled air traffic at certain capacity constrained airports. In the U.S., those airports are John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in New York, and Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Virginia, outside Washington D.C. In addition, the FAA monitors scheduled air traffic demand at other airports and has a formal schedule review and approval process at several airports. Those airports are Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), and San Francisco International Airport (SFO)."

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 12, 2017 at 4:35 pm

Thank you - that is part of the answer. I grew up in vicinity of LAX and a whole town was removed - Westchester - to add runways and buildings. And we know that SFO has increased their facility space. Other airports are creating a universal auto rental facility to free up runway space previously used for car rentals - Burbank and Hawaii - Honolulu. So airports are growing and adding runway space - which SJX recently did by eliminating the parking lot on the west side and converting to a private airport capability. The FAA needs to catch up with the growth cycle. I think they are falling behind. So is the local scene a random growth spurt?

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